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Irritated by Sensitive Skin

By Rochelle Kaminsky

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had ‘sensitive skin’. I’ve suffered from allergies and asthma my whole life, and I believe all these things are related!

What does having sensitive skin mean? For me it’s meant I’ve had to avoid all of those wonderful, glossy, sparkly luxuries that most women indulge in! For one woman, bright red lipstick can be just the accessory to brighten up her face for a hot night out. But for me, it means itchy, irritated skin around my mouth that could last for weeks. Not so attractive!

I started developing an interest in makeup when I was about 13 years old. By high school, I was lining my lips and lengthening my lashes with the best of them! But at some point during my make-up-wearing heyday…I noticed that my skin didn’t like being covered up with my chosen colours and creams.

Some of the skin reactions I experienced include:

  • eczema rashes on my neck, behind my ears and on my eyelids in reaction to face makeup and perfume
  • rough cracked lips and dry, painful peeling skin at the corners of my mouth in reaction to heavy lipsticks, or lip balms containing SPF
  • random hives and allergic reactions on my face, sometimes for no apparent reason
  • itchy rashes and bumpy skin on my body in reaction to certain sun screens

When I was in my late teens, I went to visit a dermatologist to discuss treating my irritating skin problem. She prescribed the usual cortisone cream treatments to alleviate the eczema. But she also suggested I stay away from the various face-cleansing products that can be found at the drug store and try out a different product line of hypo-allergenic, gentle and fragrance-free cleansers and moisturizers. I have been using them ever since. She suggested that one possible cause for the irritated skin on my face was my nail polish! I love wearing nail polish, but I have to agree that sometimes after painting my nails, I notice a bit of irritation on my face. It’s an interesting connection that one might not make right away. She also suggested spraying perfume on my clothes or in my hair – as opposed to directly on my skin – to avoid perfume-related skin irritations.

These days, at the age of 35 … I tend to get compliments on my skin. Is it because of all the years I’ve spent avoiding wearing heavy make-up? Perhaps! I still stay away from heavy lipsticks, but have found that I can wear light lip glosses without any significant (if any) reaction. A little bit of eyeliner seems to be OK too. I like wearing mascara, but the odd brand here and there may cause me some irritation, which usually clears up after a couple of days of mascara-avoidance! I also use a cream-powder eye shadow from time to time that doesn’t bother me too much. My skin regimen includes washing my face with a gentle cleanser, followed by a healthy dollop of a mild moisturizer to keep my skin soft, youthful and irritation-free!

Over the years I've grown to accept my sensitive skin as just a part of who I am and I have learned how to treat it and deal with it. But most importantly, I've also come to realize that I can look and feel beautiful without lots of layers of make-up!

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  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital